Sheffield United: Slavisa Jokanovic knows what it takes to be a success in the transfer market, but he must be allowed to use his expertise

Slavisa Jokanovic has indicated he is ready to adopt a more global approach towards recruitment than Sheffield United have employed in the past after rejecting a suggestion that allowing the transfer window to remain open until the end of August causes unnecessary disruption for English clubs.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:56 am

Despite seeing the first month-and-a-half of his reign at Bramall Lane overshadowed by speculation about Aaron Ramsdale’s future, with the goalkeeper now set to join Arsenal before this month’s deadline, Jokanovic told The Star that changing the domestic calendar would have little effect unless in the absence of a worldwide consensus.

The Serb’s phlegmatic attitude towards Ramsdale’s situation - and his reasons behind advocating retaining the status quo - suggest he is prepared to sign more players from teams overseas after adding Sampdoria’s Ronaldo Vieira to his wanted list before that deal broke down. Although he insisted it was more by accident than design, Jokanovic’s predecessor Chris Wilder predominantly sourced British and Irish talent during his time at the helm - leading United from the third to the first tier of the game before departing a month before they were relegated from the Premier League last term.

Asked if he subscribed to the theory that managers and coaches should be prevented from signing players once competition has started, Jokanovic said: “To be honest it wouldn’t be better because we tried a few years ago and there wasn’t the balance we needed.

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“That was because of other countries and leagues, who didn’t have the same dates. We closed early and it was crazy because people in other countries and leagues found it was a huge benefit for them.

“It was a huge disadvantage for those of us working here, because we couldn’t do anything but they could. So, for me, I don’t really think it is the right thing. If I had the choice, then the better option would be for us to close at the same time as other countries.”

Although United’s only acquisition since appointing Jokanovic - Liverpool defender Ben Davies - arrived from Liverpool, the 53-year-old has instructed Bramall Lane’s scouting and analytics department to compile data on a number of potential targets currently working abroad as part of his plan to deliver an immediate return to the PL. Despite beginning his professional career with Leeds, Vieira has spent the past three seasons in Italy after moving to Genoa in 2018.

Sweden’s Robin Olsen, who is contracted to AS Roma, is among Ramsdale’s possible replacements when the former England under-21 international completes his switch to north London.

Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic watches the action unfold at West Bromwich Albion: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

With Wilder departing in March following a series of disagreements with United’s hierarchy over strategy and investment, Jokanovic insisted earlier this week that his employers must “react quickly” in order to give themselves the best possible chance of climbing out of the Championship.

However, speaking ahead of this weekend’s game against Huddersfield Town, Jokanovic suggested he is minded to work with the likes of owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Jan van Winckel, United’s de facto director of football, rather than rail against them. Van Winckel is a key figure in the ‘United World’ project which has seen the Saudi Arabian either purchase or make significant investments in other clubs across the globe. They include Beerschot, of Bekgium’s Jupiler Pro League, and Indian outfit Kerala United. UW’s mission statement insists this will bring sporting and commercial benefits to those within the network. But by demanding greater collaboration, those at executive level must also accept they will be held accountable if things go wrong. As they are right now.

Having acknowledged that he “pushed” for Davies after his name was put forward by a long-standing member of staff at Bramall Lane, Jokanovic said: “I am outside of the business and I need the support from the people around me. I need more help now than in the future.

“The decision for some players (to leave) was done before I arrive here. There are some people who have been working here for years and I don’t want to come in shouting and screaming or pretending that I am the only person here who knows anything about football.”

Sheffield United were humiliated at The Hawthorns: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

After watching United get filleted by West Bromwich Albion, Jokanovic might privately feel tempted to revise that statement. With Ransdale’s move to the capital being agreed before kick-off, he was forced to withdraw the 23-year-old from his starting eleven and pitch Michael Verrips into action instead while Davies, still the only new face to arrive since January, watched from the bench having only checked-in 48 hours earlier.

Verrips is probably a perfectly capable professional. But, against opponents who have refreshed their playing staff after also being relegated, he looked exactly what he was - under-prepared, under-pressure and inexperienced at the level. That isn’t his fault. What happened was inevitable.

United must have known for at least a fortnight how the Ramsdale situation was going to unfold. A replacement should have been sourced before he was allowed to leave the building. For both sporting and financial reasons. The cheque set to be deposited in their bank account, believed to be worth between £24m and £26m, will have an inflationary effect on the valuation of anyone they are looking to sign. Assuming, of course, Jokanovic will be given the opportunity to sign a permanent replacement rather than being limited - as seems likely - to borrowing one on loan.

With his contacts and coaching ability, combined with the keen eyes recruitment specialists Paul Mitchell and Jared Dublin possess for talented footballers, United should be well-placed to construct a squad as effective as it is eye-catching. Providing they are given the support they need to make the most of their expertise.

Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic has the knowledge and expertise at his disposal behind the scenes to be able to make a difference: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

“It was not perfect preparation to lose Aaron the day before the game,” Jokanovic said, following the 4-0 defeat to West Brom, “But we can not say we were surprised by it.”